“As far as I know, it is in fact uncertain whether that really was the driver,” Berlin’s police chief Klaus Kandt said Tuesday at a press conference.
Kandt’s admission means that the perpetrator may still be at large and armed. Authorities had arrested a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum-seeker on suspicion of driving the truck that plowed into a crowd of people at a Christmas market in central Berlin Monday evening, killing 12 and injuring 48.
Chancellor Angeal Merkel visited the sece on the attack in Breitscheidplatz in Berlin.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere earlier confirmed that the incident had been an intentional attack. The suspect, de Maiziere said, had arrived in Germany on December 31, 2015 and applied for asylum.
A Polish man, who was in the passenger seat of the crashed truck, was found shot dead at the scene. De Maiziere admitted earlier that a gun had not been recovered. However, the detained man denies any involvement in the attack.
On Twitter, Berlin’s police force, which has since admitted the suspect may still be at large and armed, wrote: “The temporarily arrested suspect denies the offence. Therefore we are particularly alert. Please also be alert.”
Ahead of the Kandt’s admission, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper quoted security sources of saying the arrested man was not believed to be the perpetrator. A Berlin police chief repoertedly told the paper: “We have the wrong man, and therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage.”
Speaking to German news agency DPA following the press conference, Kandt said investigators were continuing to inspect the truck used in the attack, searching for finger prints, blood and smudge marks. “I estimate that the current investigation will take somewhat longer,” he said, adding that it could take a few days before new evidence comes to light.
“An act of terrorism”
Germany’s two top prosecutors confirmed Tuesday that investigators are indeed treating Monday’s incident as an act of terrorism, although no group has of yet claimed responsibility.
However, prosecutor Peter Frank said that, given the target and nature of the attack, the incident pointed towards Islamist extremist motives. Frank said the attack was reminiscent of July’s terrorist attack in Nice, France, and of the “modus operandi” deployed by Islamist terror group.
However, echoing Berlin’s police officials, Frank also acknowledged that the detained suspect “may not have been the perpetrator or belong to the group of perpetrators.”
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